“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, He stretched out His hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.”
The Queen’s traditional Christmas Day broadcast to her peoples in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth resonated with two words this year – peace and reconciliation. She began with a reflection on the sculpture of embrace which sits in the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral, moved on to the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ of 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, to which she said silence was “the only possible reaction”, and thence to the Christmas truce of the Great War, which was “something remarkable”.
And she spoke of grief and loss, of sacrifice and service, of friendship, hope and love. And she constructed her homily firmly on christological inspiration of the Prince of Peace, who is, she says, an inspiration and an anchor in her life. He taught her how to forgive the lacerations of life, how to reconcile across the gulfs of difference, and how to make peace in the discord and distress of hatred and war. Christ’s example is one of courageous peace-making and perpetual reconciliation, which she reflects in her Royal Ministry and manifests in her disposition of selflessness and faithfulness to the One who transforms hearts and renews minds.
By speaking so openly about her faith, the Queen liberates thousands of consciences from the stifling confines of political correctness. She transcends the pettiness of partisan notions of equality and forges the salvation which serves our common life. In a world of wickedness, alienation and division she encourages grace and creates peace.
How remarkable it is to have a head of state whose royal dignity is alive with God’s image. The Queen leads a godly life in her generation: it is a reign of righteousness which imparts great wisdom and grasps the eternal truths. Where our politicians are wrong and weak, her political counsel guides and her spiritual strength advises and rebukes. By framing her mission so patently with Christian virtue, she heaps burning coals on the heads of those who seek to relativise, standardise and equalise. Christianity is not simply one belief in a free market of multi-faith bartering. Nor is Jesus simply one in a pantheon of gods from which we may pick and mix syncretised deities to suit our sweetened teeth and itching ears.
Christianity is about liberation: Jesus calls us not only to be kind to our friends but to love our enemies, which is the complete, divinely corresponding form of neighbourly love, and the way to lasting peace on earth. If we quarrel as individuals and enter into conflict as nations, we are drawn into vicious circles of hopeless rejoinder and retaliation, forever wishing ill on our enemies and repaying evil with evil. We justify our threats and rationalise our hate, oblivious to the corrosion it causes to the soul. The only escape from mutual hostility is to stop allowing the enemy’s action to dictate our response.
Only by repaying evil with good can we create something new. How blessed we are to have a Head of State and Supreme Governor who defends the Faith, confesses Christ, witnesses for peace, and enjoys beating swords into ploughshares.